CHICAGO – Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder is predicting that voters will get a chance to decide next year whether to halt a labor policy that requires union dues as a condition of employment in some Missouri workplaces.
Kinder said while attending a Chicago conference of the American Legislative Exchange Council that he believes fellow Republicans, who hold supermajorities in both the Missouri House and Senate, will pass what supporters commonly refer to as a "right-to-work" measure.
Similar legislation has been stymied in the past in Missouri, partly because of opposition from some union-friendly Republicans and partly because of an expected veto by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.
"I believe we will pass right-to-work next year and bypass (Nixon) entirely by putting it on the referendum ballot for voters," Kinder publicly declared during the conference. His comments came during a how-to session highlighting the recent passage of a right-to-work law in the historically unionized state of Michigan.
Michigan became the 24th state to enact a right-to-work law last December, when GOP Gov. Rick Snyder signed a measure passed by that state's Republican-led Legislature. That came several months after Indiana also enacted right-to-work law.
As lieutenant governor, Kinder is the highest ranking Republican state official and is the presiding officer of the Missouri Senate, though he can vote only to break ties and does not schedule bills for debate.
A right-to-work proposal last went before Missouri voters in 1978 and was overwhelmingly defeated. Since then, union membership has declined both nationally and in Missouri.
The American Legislative Exchange Council is a Washington, D.C.-based association of legislators, businesses and nonprofit groups that advocates for free-market policies and limited government. It drafts model legislation for states on numerous topics and distributed a right-to-work act Thursday to members that would prohibit employees from being required to join unions or pay union fees as a condition of employment.
Hundreds of union members protested outside the hotel hosting the conference, at times chanting: "What's disgusting? Union busting."
Kinder was one of several elected Missouri officials at the ALEC meeting. State Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, and Rep. Sue Allen, R-Town and Country, served as co-chairs for the Missouri delegation. Although ALEC offers business-financed scholarships to cover the conference registration, many of the Missouri officials said they planned to use campaign funds to cover the bulk of their expenses, such as travel and hotel costs.
House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, initially was listed by the Missouri House as attending the event. But Jones did not do so. He told The Associated Press that he had too much legislative work to do in Missouri in advance of next week's House Republican caucus meeting and a September session during which legislators will consider whether to override gubernatorial vetoes.
St. Louis-based Peabody Energy was one of the larger financial sponsors of the conference, which included workshops touting the benefits of clean coal technology and coal exports.
Other large sponsors included the St. Louis lobbying and public affairs firm Pelopidas LLC, whose CEO, Travis Brown, was scheduled to speak Friday about how low-tax policies can help spur state economies. Brown gets substantial financial backing from retired investment executive Rex Sinquefield, who is spending more than $2 million on an advertising campaign attempting to persuade lawmakers to override Nixon's veto of an income-tax cut bill.
About one-fifth of the states already have passed income tax cuts this year. Income tax opponents are preparing to broaden their push to other states in 2014 and, as Brown described it, to "double down" with even deeper tax cuts in several Midwestern states.